Grant Writing Graduate ‘Excited and Empowered’ by New Career Path

Linda SullivanLinda Sullivan lives in western Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley where she and her husband own a plumbing and heating company. She manages the office, and also works part-time as a substitute teacher in local elementary and middle schools. Last year she decided she’d like to work for a nonprofit as her “encore” career, and signed up for SDSU’s online Professional Certificate in Grant Writing program.

“I thought that gaining grant writing knowledge would add to my skill set and distinguish me a little from the competition,” said Sullivan. “My intention was to take a class and add it to my resume. I ended up enjoying the experience so much and learning so quickly that I decided to continue and go for the certificate. The depth of the coursework, the class participation, the professor’s expertise and enthusiasm for the subject made it a great experience.”

What do you think is the biggest strengths of SDSU’s Grant Writing program?
The professor’s ability to engage his students in the class via the online format is its greatest strength. We introduced ourselves in a fun way, read and commented on each other’s work, and learned together each week. I had the opportunity to read other student’s work and it definitely helped my own writing. The progression of the course, while demanding, flows well.

What were your top takeaways from the course?
Grant writing plays a pivotal role for nonprofits. The funds are vital to the success of most of these organizations. As grant writers, we need to first determine a good match between our nonprofit and a funder, and secondly submit a flawless request that stands out from the competition in order to be considered for the funding. Finally, we write the grant application and try to show through facts and figures what makes our organization the most deserving of the funding.

Can you speak to the caliber of the instructor?
Jay Katz is an excellent instructor. He emphasized “show, don’t tell” in our writing — a lesson that can be applied to so many areas in life besides writing. He tried to teach us to be concise with our words; something that I think a lot of writers, no matter how good, struggle to achieve. I’m still struggling with that one! Also, his feedback was prompt, instructive and always encouraging. I needed a lot of encouragement, as an “older” learner!

How long did it take to complete the program?
It took me a year. I found time in early fall and early spring to take the courses. I have multiple jobs, so I chose a time that was less busy both personally and professionally. This is a program that does require a time commitment each week. I chose to study each day to stay on top of the assignments. I have a son attending college so I had to show him that if I could complete assignments on time and pass a course, then he could too. I gained new respect for college students and their ability to juggle four or five courses at once.

How have you put your grant writing skills to use?
I surprised myself with how quickly I started using my new writing skills in my community. I immediately wrote and received a small grant for my after-school preteen tennis club. Next I helped review and revise a neighborhood grant that was already in progress. Currently I’ve jumped in helping review grant applications for a solar energy nonprofit where high schoolers build and race solar-powered remote-controlled cars. They gain knowledge about alternative energy and are encouraged to think about STEM careers. I feel excited and empowered that my final career path is opening up to me, thanks to SDSU continuing education.

Would you recommend SDSU’s Grant Writing program to others?
Absolutely. I have already told college students who enjoy writing to consider adding this program to their curriculum. It really is a program that can be considered by every student from freshman to lifelong learners like myself. To quote Bon Jovi, “It’s your life, it’s now or never.”

Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to add that revealing to people that I acquired some grant writing skills has made me as popular as a soccer mom with a large minivan! I am definitely needed. As my experience grows, I hope to turn from a volunteer into an entrepreneur. I’d now like to work as a freelance grant writer for more than one nonprofit. I feel confident that it will happen soon.